Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 29, 2021

Max Scherzer began his transformation from a decent hurler to a Hall of Famer with Detroit. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer 3,000 K watch: With 10 strikeouts on the 26th, Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer put himself just 28 away from 3,000 for his career. He also needs just 12 for 200 on the year; when he reaches that milestone, he will have done it eight times in his career. Upon eclipsing 3,000 Ks, he will all but seal his chances for Cooperstown. But even if he suffers a catastrophic, career-ending injury in his next start …

Scherzer’s a sure lock: With his statistics (187 W, 2,972 K, 3.17 ERA, 65.4 WAR, 10.7 K/9) being what they are, one can comfortably say Max Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer right now, at this point in his career. Maybe not a first ballot guy, maybe he’d have to wait until the veteran’s committee put him in, but he ranks among the best of this generation, and in this era of high-strikeout pitchers, Scherzer has been among the best the longest.

Can Cabrera collect ‘em all? As the world turned its attention to Miguel Cabrera’s chase for 500 home runs, his quest for 3,000 hits took a backseat. But right now, he’s only 40 away with two games left to play in August. He had 37 hits in a month as recently as September/October 2016 and 41 hits in May 2014. He’ll have to perform as well as he did in his prime, but Cabrera could, feasibly, reach the fabled hits milestone this year.

Ibanez rocks: Royals rookie second baseman Andy Ibanez just recently concluded an eleven-game hitting streak in which he hit .488 with 6 doubles and 2 home runs. Over the past week, he’s hit .458 and raised his season average to .260, up from .200 on August 14. He recently got a boo-boo, however, and is currently day-to-day.

Mercadoubt: Oscar Mercado, a 26-year-old outfielder for Cleveland, made waves as a rookie in 2019 when he hit 19 home runs with 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases, to earn some Rookie of the Year support. Since then, he’s hit just .194 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 82 games, casting doubt on whether he’ll ever live up to his first-year promise.

Abreu had a 20.25 ERA in 2 games with New York in 2020. (Wikipedia).

Just one bad game: Yankees reliever Albert Abreu had a 1.88 ERA and .091 OBA through his first 14 1/3 innings of the season, then on July 29, he surrendered 3 dingers and 6 earned runs without getting an out, raising his 2021 mark all the way to 5.65. Since then, he has a 2.51 ERA, again in 14 1/3 innings—but still carries a 4.08 ERA overall.

The same ol’ Nolin: Prior to 2021, Nationals hurler Sean Nolin hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2015; he missed all of 2016 and 2017 and then bounced around the minors, indy ball, even the Mexican Pacific Winter League and Japan. In his first three stints from 2013 to 2015, he had a 6.89 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. The time away didn’t help: Since returning to the majors, he’s posted a 6.57 mark in 3 starts. His last outing was decent, however, as he allowed just 2 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mets on August 28.

Mets could do it: The Mets defeated the Nationals handily this afternoon, 9-4, and have now won two-in-a-row, they’re longest winning streak since … who knows how long, my memory isn’t that good (it was actually August 10-12). Baseball Reference says they still have a 0.4% chance of making the postseason. They’re facing some weak teams over the final stretch of the season, so what if …

It’s been a while: The last time a rookie pitcher had 5 or more shutouts was in 1983, when Orioles hurler Mike Boddicker had exactly that many and led the league. The last time a rookie even had three shutouts in a campaign was 1995, when Hideo Nomo did it for the Dodgers; he also led the league. And when did a rookie last lead the league in shutouts at all? 2019. The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara had two.

Complete games are a rarity, too: Boddicker and the Rangers’ Mike Smithson were the last rookie hurlers with 10-plus complete games in a season, achieving the feat in 1983. In an indictment on today’s game, the last rookie pitcher to complete even five games in a season was the Dodgers’ Ismael Valdez in 1995; even worse, J.A. Happ was the last rookie to manage 3 CGs, doing so in 2009.

Rarer than no-hitters? Since 2019, only eight pitchers have thrown more than one shutout in a season. There’s been that many no-hitters this year alone.

Got ‘em all in one year: Shortstop/outfielder Eric Yelding spent five years in the major leagues in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, playing for Astros and Cubs. He stole 89 bases in his career—in 1990 with Houston, he swiped 64 of them.

Willy kept going: Speaking of speedsters with short careers, Willy Taveras—who stole 68 bags for the Rockies in 2008—was playing independent ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters as recently at 2019. Who knew. He last played in the majors in 2010.

A home for the washed-up: That 2019 Skeeters team featured myriad players who you thought were long since retired. James Loney, who last played in the majors in 2016, spent time with them, as did Mitch Talbot (2011), Denis Phipps (2012), Daniel Schlereth (2012), Josh Prince (2013), Felipe Paulino (2014), Cesar Cabral (2015), Dallas Beeler (2015), Matt West (2015), Ryan Jackson (2015), Rico Noel (2015) and Cody Stanley (2015), among others.

With the minor league August Browns in 1886, Suck hit .091 in 88 at-bats. (Wikipedia).

How many did he have to hit? Moe Hill spent 15 years in professional baseball, including nine seasons in the Twins system. From 1971 to 1978, he played for the Single A Wisconsin Rapids Twins—which, in itself, was an impressive feat, since by his last season with them, he was 31 and almost a full decade older than the average man in the Midwest League. Even more amazingly: He won four home run titles in a row, from 1974 to 1977. Despite hitting 267 career home runs, he peaked at Double A and never earned a big league call.

He lived up to the name: Tony Suck, a utilityman in 1883 and 1884, hit .151/.205/.161 in 205 career at-bats, for an OPS+ of 24. He was born Charles Anthony Zuck—shoulda kept the original name.

 No camping under that one: Remember when Braves pitcher Rick Camp, then a .060 hitter, hit an 18th-inning, game-tying home run … at 3 in the morning?  

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 22, 2021.

Max Scherzer is making his case for the Hall of Fame with each start. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer K watch: Dodgers starter Max Scherzer struck out 8 Mets yesterday, bringing his career total to 2,962. He’s just 38 Ks away from 3,000.

More on White: Dodgers hurler Mitch White earns another mention today. Talk about being oblivious—I knew he tossed 7 1/3 solid innings a few days ago, but I didn’t realize it was a relief appearance. He became the first pitcher to throw that many frames in relief since Ed Roebuck in 1960. Check out this article for more on the feat.

Ibanez is mashing: Andy Ibanez, the Rangers Cuban infielder, has 10 hits in his past 21 at-bats, after batting just .091 in his prior 10 games. He’s been a bright spot of late on that middling 43-80 team, but perhaps it should come as no surprise. He hit 20 home runs at Triple A in 2019 and batted .352 in 27 games there this year.

Jeffers’ power is there, but not his speed. He’s never stolen a base in pro ball. (Wikipedia).

Better than Stanton: Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers has 11 home runs in 184 at-bats this season, a rate of one every 16.7 at-bats—that’s a better clip than Giancarlo Stanton. The former second rounder won’t scare any pitchers with his batting average, but his slugging is a different story. He has 5 home runs, 3 doubles and 13 RBI in just 50 at-bats this past month.

Making up for that debut: Reliever Phil Bickford is doing his part to keep the injury-ravaged Dodgers in the playoff chase. In the past month, he has a 0.71 ERA in 14 appearances, striking out 16 batters in 12 2/3 innings. On the year, his mark with L.A. is 1.96. But his success wasn’t a forgone conclusion. He arrived on the big league scene in 2020, making a single relief appearance for the Brewers. In one inning, he allowed 4 earned runs on 4 hits, 2 hit batsmen and a wild pitch. And it looked like more of the same for 2021—he surrendered 2 runs in his single-inning initial appearance—but a move to the Dodgers in early May changed his fortunes.

Rays recall Mazza: Chris Mazza was summoned by the Rays again; he has a 5.57 ERA in 11 games for the club this year. The hurler didn’t make his major league debut until 2019, when he was 29, but has pitched each year since. Ever wonder what makes someone not big league worthy for years and years and years, just to suddenly be good enough to appear at the level every season? It’s like Erik Kratz—he didn’t debut until he was 30, then he rattled off an 11-year career.

Not #1: In 2019, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. were two of the three youngest players in the major leagues. But neither was number one. Can you name who was? It was the Blue Jays’ 19-year-old pitcher Elvis Luciano, who jumped straight from rookie ball—having never played above that level—to the majors. For one seven-game stretch in April and May he had a 0.84 ERA, but he had a 5.35 ERA in 25 appearances overall … and now he’s back in the minors, at Double A.

That’s wild: Facing the Red Sox in the 9th inning of his most recent appearance on July 22, Yankees reliever Brooks Kriske tied the post-1800s major league record with four wild pitches in a single frame. It’s an embarrassing, but not unheard of, feat: The Twins’ RA Dickey did it against the Mariners on August 17, 2008, the Phillies Ryan Madson did it against Arizona on July 25, 2006 and the Mariners Kevin Gregg did it against the Angels on July 25, 2004. In the previous century, it happened only twice—Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Walter Johnson did it in 1979 and 1914, respectively.

Three-in-a-row: What’s worse—four wild pitches in the same inning, or three to the same batter in the same inning? The Padres’ Trevor Cahill managed the latter against Avisail Garcia of the White Sox in the bottom of the 4th on May 13, 2017.  

The catcher’s mitt is right there: On June 25, 2017, Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino tossed four wild pitches in a span of three outs against the Dodgers. Earlier in the game, Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy threw three wild pitches in one inning and in the 3rd, Rockies starter Tyler Anderson added one of his own.

Dan Haren finished his career 153-131 with a 3.75 ERA. (Wikipedia).

Mr. Consistent: From 2005 to 2015, that’s 11 years, Dan Haren won no less than 10 games, made no fewer than 30 starts, tossed no less than 169 2/3 innings and had no fewer than 132 strikeouts in a season. He averaged 33 starts, 13 wins, 209 innings and 176 strikeouts per year.

Hall of Fame birthday: Three Hall of Famers were born on this day. Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski came into this world in 1939, while 3,000 hit club-member Paul Molitor joined us in 1956. Nineteenth-century manager Ned Hanlon, who won five pennants, was born in 1857.

Time to reanalyze Franco? With Lee Smith’s election to the Hall of Fame in 2019, it might be time to reanalyze the case for John Franco. At the time of his retirement, he was third all-time in saves—behind only Smith and Trevor Hoffman—and his 424 still rank fifth on the list. Only Craig Kimbrel, himself potentially headed to Cooperstown, currently threatens his position.

That’s all he’ll be remembered for: Hey Mets fans, remember when Luis Castillo dropped the ball?

That’s an improvement: Bryan Evans, a minor league pitcher from 2008 to 2019, was pretty lackluster during the first few years of his career. From 2008 to 2010, he was just 13-22 and his ERA never dropped below 4.00. Then he exploded in 2011, going 8-2 with a 1.99 ERA. Talk about an improvement! According to the experts at Baseball-Fever.com, the only major league pitcher to start his career with three straight seasons with ERAs above 4 (min. 40 IP each season), and then have an ERA below 2 in his fourth campaign, is Hall of Fame closer Rich “Goose” Gossage.

Hainline dies: Former Gonzaga star outfielder Jeff Hainline, who hit .370 with 21 home runs in 1984, died August 12 at 56. He was later drafted by the Rangers and spent a year in their system, but batted just .103 in 29 at-bats. His brother, Bill Hainline, also played for Gonzaga.